Threatening Relationships

September 8, 2011

Over on the Burning Wheel forums, someone was asking about how to threaten things in conflicts and it came to the question of relationships. I wrote this stuff as part of a reply, but it’s good all-around relationship issues to bring into your game.

Note that actually all of these questions can go to any category- it’s just that usually for stories, you see that type of relationship focus on those questions.


How do we feel about each other? Do we have faith in each other? How much attention/affection do we need from each other? What responsibilities do we have to share, and are we each keeping up our end? How do we deal with stress?


How well do we take care of each other? What needs do we have? What expectations do we have of each other, and are they reasonable or not? What do we do to force or manipulate each other into doing things? How do our issues affect each other?


How much do we trust each other, and are we worthy of that trust? At what level do we value something other than our friendship (job, family, love, etc)? What do we view as betrayals, real or perceived? How much does status and social circles matter to our friendship? In what ways to we enable each other or lean on each other, and are they good or bad codependencies?


The negative consequences that come out of these things usually appear along these lines:

– They need more attention/help from you
– They are getting resentful of your galavanting around/irresponsibility
– They might discover something about you that is negative (alternatively, they might see something that would appear so, out of context)
– They might hear lies about you and start believing them
– They might reduce how much support they give you
– They might start giving some help/support to someone you don’t like
– They might be in danger of being shamed or lose a job/position

You’ll also notice that this isn’t roleplaying specific, or even fiction specific- these are just the sorts of real world issues people navigate with relationships, that happens to be really interesting when you put it in stories.

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